Isotopic evidence for omnivory among European cave bears: Late Pleistocene Ursus spelaeus from the Pestera Cu Oase, Romania

Michael P. Richards, Martina Pacher, Mathias Stiller, Jerome Quiles, Michael Hofreiter, Silviu Constantin, Joao Zilhao, Erik Trinkaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous bone collagen carbon and nitrogen isotopic studies of Late Pleistocene European cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) have shown that these bears frequently had low nitrogen isotope values, similar to those of herbivores and indicating either unusual physiology related to hibernation or a herbivorous diet. Isotopic analysis of animal bone from the Pestera cu Oase (Cave with Bones), Romania, shows that most of its cave bears had higher nitrogen isotope values than the associated herbivores and were, therefore, omnivorous. The Oase bears are securely identified as cave bears by both their morphology and DNA sequences. Although many cave bear populations may have behaved like herbivores, the Oase isotopic data demonstrate that cave bears were capable of altering their diets to become omnivores or even carnivores. These data therefore broaden the dietary profile of U. spelaeus and raise questions about the nature of the carnivore guild in Pleistocene Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-604
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume105
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2008

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